We have coffee and cake with the wonderful Michelle Sisam from Sweet Deer Hand-Painted Cakes
When did you first start decorating cakes?
My fascination with food, art and everything creative was evident from a very young age. I always enjoyed making cakes for birthdays and for occasions over the years, but it wasn’t until I hand painted a cake for the first time two years ago for my husband’s birthday, that I considered doing hand painted cakes as a full-time job.
Where did you learn your baking skills?
I studied the culinary arts here in New Zealand where I became a fully qualified chef. My nana and mother are great bakers who showed me how to bake growing up.
How did you become such a good artist?
I come from a family of professional artists and have always naturally sketched and painted since a very young age. I am lucky enough to have a natural talent in the arts, where I am self-taught.
How would you sum up your style?
My painting style would be realism.
What is it that most appeals to you about hand painting cakes?
What I love most about hand painting cakes is bringing the blank canvas to life. Whether it’s painting bright, colourful flowers or beautiful animals, the whole process of it is,
I think, quite magical. Every cake I do is completely bespoke, one of a kind, which I love.
Where do you get your inspiration for creating new designs?
My inspiration comes from many avenues from the creative world around me. I love all the online wedding and food blogs, magazines and other artists. Living in New Zealand
I am surrounded by the beautiful outdoors, bushland and wildlife, which I feel is one of my main inspirations.
What’s your design process?
There is a lot of work in the design process. Either I am given an idea from the client or I source it myself. Once I have worked out the final look of the cake, I then carefully hand-draw the picture(s) onto the fondant. There’s little room for error when painting onto fondant, so this can take some time. I then paint layer by layer, with colour going from the highlights to the low lights. Once the paint is dried, I finish with the finer detailing.
What are your top tips for hand painting cakes?
I find practising on a test piece of fondant is always helpful, whether it’s to get a feel for your subject or the colours you will be mixing and blending. Always research your subject well prior to painting, once you start your painting on the fondant you are completely committed and have little room for error. A funny thing I like to do is have the image I’m painting in my pocket for the days leading up to the day I paint, so I can study the picture when I can. Explore and try many different mediums. When it comes to which brand of paint/gels you use, what might work for others, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right for you.
Why the name Sweet Deer?
I have always sketched and painted deer and wildlife, so the name Sweet Deer came from that connection of love I have for deer. I wanted a name that meant something to me in that respect.
What’s the reason behind your focus on wildlife?
I have always had a passion for wildlife, growing up and living on a farm I’ve looked after many orphaned animals over the years, including several fawns, raising them until they were fully grown.
With my love for animals I am naturally drawn and happiest when I’m painting wildlife.
What do you think will be the next big trend in cake decorating?
It seems that whatever the latest stylings on the blogs and magazines with weddings is what dictates the trends with the latest wedding cakes. I have been asked a lot lately for marbled cakes, which I feel go with the simple clean Scandinavian look we have been seeing. Clean lines and simplicity seem to be featuring a lot in the requests I have seen lately.
What’s next for you?
Continuing to develop my style and technique of painting. I hope to continue to grow as a business and to be able to send my cakes all over the country! For more information and to see more of Michelle’s creations visit www.sweetdeer.co.nz